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News Messenger 2-19-16

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1000 SCTA Educators Rally at Serna Center 
Will the Seven Elected School Board Members Listen?
One thousand SCTA educators, joined by parents, students (including the JFK Jazz band!), and community supporters, marched, chanted, picketed and rallied outside the Serna Center last night before going inside to attend the regularly scheduled school board.

We were there to call attention to the escalating crisis regarding our District’s failure to address the growing shortage of teachers, primarily because our pay is on average 15 to 30% below neighboring districts.

The large turnout generated a significant amount of media attention, with all major local networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision and Telemundo) covering the event.  Even the Sacramento Bee had a relatively balanced story, which can be found by clicking here.

Interestingly, as the stories below make clear, the press seems to have a better understanding of the crisis, than the District leadership.

The KCRA 3 story can be found by clicking here.

The KXTV ABC 10 story can be found by clicking here.

Teachers Spoke (and Sang) Eloquently

Approximately 25 educators and our supporters spoke (and sang!) during public comment.  SCTA president Nikki Milevsky pointed out misplaced district priorities:  high salaries and an increased number of administrators and consultants, and a staffing crisis among certificated staff.  A copy of the packet she shared can be found by clicking here.

Chesshuwa Beckett from Rosemont described a former student who is preparing to enter the teaching profession, but who is looking at other districts because of our non-competitive pay.  Sandy Olson a retiree and substitute and Robin Durfee from Caroline Wenzel reminded board members of the sacrifices teachers made when times were hard.  Others, like Victoria Carr from Fern Bacon described the sacrifices teachers make to remain in the District today.

Hasan McWhorter from The Met and Sandy Allen from Alice Birney Waldorf were compelling in verse and song.

Fabrizio Sasso, the Executive Director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, representing more than 110,000 union members throughout our area, reiterating that the community was watching to see whose interests the board would protect, particularly since 4 board seats are up for election this fall.

Harold Fong, a member of the Sacramento County Board of Education (SCOE) challenged the assertion that SCOE had told the District it could not agree to a 5% wage increase without a concession on health insurance.  Fong added he was unaware of any such communication and would oppose something like that if it came up.

And there was more.

Board Response Off-Putting
With one exception.

The board’s reaction provides a clue in to how the District created this mess.  Rather than understanding that 1000 teachers picketing in front of Serna Center was an indication of a problem, the Board president read an insulting, joint, previously prepared statement that failed to address any of our concerns.  The Board statement never addressed why it failed to finalize the agreement the Superintendent reached with us for 5% in 2015-16 that would have resolved this whole issue.  The board left unchallenged the position stated by SCOE board member Harold Fong that SCOE made no restrictions on the District agreeing to wage increases and tying them to benefit concessions, which contradicted statements made by the superintendent and others.

The board never addressed its improved finances.  They never addressed why the superintendent is the highest paid in the area, but educators are 12th out of 13th.  The board never addressed why it approved the hiring of 54 additional administrators at a cost of $9 million per year, or why it was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on $417 an hour consultants.

Instead, the board reverted to its timeworn and un-sustained defense that it needed to be fiscally prudent.  The board never explained how expecting students to learn from non-credentialed teachers was fiscally prudent.

The one exception to the rote response came from the student member of the board, Elizabeth Berry.  With great insight and intuition, she noted that even if there is a disagreement regarding how far out of market Sac City teachers are in actuality, the fact so many teachers were outside and inside protesting was the most significant indication that there is a problem.  This was further compounded, she continued, by the results of a recent SCTA survey indicating how little confidence SCTA members have in the District’s leadership.

So What’s Next? 
Mediation Scheduled for February 24th
Because we are at impasse, we are scheduled to meet the District with a mediator assigned by the state on February 24th.Our expectations are pretty straightforward:  we expect the board to move forward on the 5% wage increase already agreed to by the Superintendent.  We have made it clear that any effort to link wages to benefits is unlawful.

The board has heard loud and clear some immediate steps it can take to improve morale and make it easier to recruit and retain educators.  In less than one week, we will see whether they were listening.

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